» Per Wiberg - Spiritual Beggars
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Interview conducted April 16 2016
Interview published June 07 2016

When Spiritual Beggars reached Stockholm for a rare Swedish gig, Metal Covenant arranged an interview with their keyboardist Per Wiberg. The skilful musician, also known from spells in Opeth, Candlemass and others, is a jovial man and a nice conversation was had before the band's top performance.

Mozzy: You played in Malmö yesterday. A Swedish gig is not that common for you nowadays. How was that?

Per: No. It was great fun. We always enjoy playing, but you always want people to come and see you when you're on tour. It exceeded our expectations, both in terms of the number of people and the reaction from them.

Mozzy: You have been touring in countries like Germany and Belgium recently too. How has the response been for the new songs?

Per: Good! That also exceeded expectations. I'm surprised so many seem to know the songs. It was a bit different when we were out three years ago, on the tour for the last record. Everyone did not seem that familiar with certain new songs then. It feels like more people have been listening to this new album.

Mozzy: The album seems to be doing good sales-wise, although the album sales are different these days.

Per: I don't know any numbers at all. But I think, whatever that means nowadays, that we entered the German charts for the first time (laughs).

Mozzy: Germany is a proper heavy metal country.

Per: Definitely.

Mozzy: I saw your setlist from recent gigs and it seems you're playing almost like two hours or so?

Per: Yeah, we have played for an hour and 45 minutes or so.

Mozzy: I guess now that you're out playing again you want to play for a long time?

Per: Yes, there is no use playing for an hour and then go to bed (smiles).

Mozzy: I have to congratulate you on your latest album (Sunrise To Sundown). I reviewed it and gave it 8 out of 10.

Per: Oh, ok!

Mozzy: I liked the last one (Earth Blues) as well but this one might be a notch better still. It has gotten great reviews overall.

Per: We are very happy with the album. It was the same with the last one, but… There is no difference in the music, but perhaps this one has a wider range, could that be it? The material pulls towards more directions.

Mozzy: It was diverse. But I also think that the more direct songs are very memorable this time.

Per: Yeah, maybe there are some songs that grab you quicker. That may well be the case.

Mozzy: Looking at the tour schedule, you don't have that much planned. There is no festival in Sweden, for example.

Per: No. One in Germany though. And we're doing Jalometalli in Finland, and at Desert Fest in Berlin. Then we're playing another one in Germany, Rock Harz.

Mozzy: What about Sweden Rock, have you received offers from them? I saw the band there back in 1998, but I can't remember if you played then?

Per: Yes, it was me! No, I don't think we have received an invitation at all after that. Maybe we sucked that time (laughs)

Mozzy: (laughs). No I remember that one as a highlight, same with my friends.

Per: I remember it well, it was great fun. It was in that tent, whatever they called it.

Mozzy: And it was around then you joined the band. How did it happen, did they know you?

Per: It was through a mutual acquaintance. The guy who signed the band to Megarock, before they signed for Music For Nations, was a friend of mine from Dalarna. He introduced me to Mike (Amott, guitar), and it turned out that he already knew who I was thanks to a band I was in at the time. Then we continued talking and so on.

Mozzy: You have definitely contributed a lot to the sound. Did Mike want to add keyboards to the sound before?

Per: Well, both Mike, Ludwig (Witt, drums) and Spice (Christian Sjöstrand, original vocalist) wanted to try having keyboards. They had used a guy called Stefan Isebring on percussion as well. The plan was to have me on two or three songs on Mantra III, to spice it up. But then I ended up playing on virtually the whole record (laughs).

So then they were forced to ask me to join (laughs). And that was fine with me, because I liked the band before I started playing with them. I liked the EP and Another Way To Shine was great I thought.

Mozzy: How has the writing process been since you joined? Your keyboard sound is quite significant as well, but I guess Mike is doing most of the writing?

Per: Well, he started the band so it's all based on his original vision for the band. Plus his interest in rock and metal from the 60´s, 70´s and 80´s.

Mozzy: He certainly seems to have a passion for that older music.

Per: Exactly. Because before Spiritual Beggars, he had mostly been playing like hardcore, d-beat and death metal. So I think it was fresh and creative for him to start another type of band. In the beginning, Mike wrote the majority of the material, although Spice wrote a bit too.

Then, as time went on, it's been a little different. I've written a song here and there, and the last three albums have been teamwork very much. Both in terms of lyrics and music. It's brilliant, and it's nothing we've planned; it just happened that way.

Mozzy: You've had the same line-up for three albums now…

Per: It's time for a change (laughs).

Mozzy: Oh no (laughs). The previous vocalists, Spice and Janne 'JB' Christoffersson, were great too, just like Apollo (Papathanasio, current vocalist). How do you think they compare?

Per: It's difficult, you know. Everyone has their charm and I don't think anyone is better or worse than the other. What is great with Apollo is that when we're playing live, as regards to the music, we can play material from every era of the band.

Spice had his energy and a very characteristic voice, and it was the same with Janne. But they have like… If Janne has, what is the music term… baritone, a bit deeper voice, then Spice was more energetic and a bit higher. Apollo is in between somewhere, musically. But at the same time, he has to tell us which songs that he feels comfortable singing.

Mozzy: He seems to be broad in his ability.

Per: He is. And that is very good for a band like ours that has had three singers. It would have been a shame if we would have been able to only play songs from a certain era.

Mozzy: I remember seeing him in Firewind back in the day. It felt a bit surprising when he joined Spiritual Beggars.

Per: Yeah. But he and Ludwig had been playing together quite a lot, in cover bands and so on. And then Apollo lives just outside Halmstad (home of Mike Amott) so he was well-known to us.

Mozzy: I remember reading that Mike had seen Apollo in a cover band and realised that he would fit well.

Per: Yes. And we're the same age all of us, so everyone has basically been brought up with the same music. Even though Apollo has figured in other fields, he knows what this style is all about.

Mozzy: Mike and Sharlee (D´angelo, bass) are of course busy with Arch Enemy, Ludwig plays in Grand Magus, and Apollo is a teacher, isn't he?

Per: Yes, he is a teacher.

Mozzy: And you have played bass with Candlemass from time to time recently. What about Kamchatka, is that band still active?

Per: Yeah, we're playing quite often. As regards to Candlemass, that is not really a touring band. It is more festivals and single gigs now and then. Unfortunately, I have to sit out sometimes because something else has been booked long in advance. Like now, when Candlemass are in South America. They have Lord K (Kenth Philipson) filling on bass this time. So you can say I'm part of the bass squadron now that Leif (Edling) is not playing live.

Mozzy: You played keyboards with Candlemass as well for a while. That was cool I thought.

Per: That was the original idea (laughs). But now when Leif has been sick, they don't want to ask new people all the time I guess, so then I'm playing bass instead. It is great fun, I really like it. Unfortunately it did not work out this time because if we want to do Spiritual Beggars we have to plan things way ahead, since everyone is so busy. So this tour and this period were decided back in August.

Mozzy: I thought that the keyboards on the last Candlemass album, and live, worked very well.

Per: Yeah! It's a bit different for them. And playing the old songs live, there are some synth and choir bits on those as well. So it is great fun to play with them, also because they are a band I've been brought up with.

Mozzy: Cool. Thank you, I think that was all from me.

Per: Good! Hope that tonight will be fun then (smiles).

Mozzy: Oh yes, I've been looking forward to this a lot.

See also: review of the gig the same night

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